Winter's snow-dusted wonderland is lovely, of course. But after weeks of white, we could all use a refreshing pop of color.
Here are some of our favorite affordable spots to catch our favorite harbinger of warmer weather – the colorful blooms of wildflowers.
1. Tucson, Arizona
We’re starting off a list of lush landscapes with a desert?
Yes, it might sound counterintuitive. But thanks to the rainfall the southwest endures during its infamous monsoon season, the landscape surrounding Tucson explodes in color come springtime.
April is the perfect time to visit. You'll see gold poppies, blue desert lupines, brittlebush and others as you enjoy near-perfect 60-degree hiking weather. By May, prickly pears sprout on the cacti dotting nearby Saguaro National Park, and the desert ironwood trees, or Olneya tesota, will be covered in lavender flowers.
Best of all, Tucson is a wonderfully inexpensive destination. Decent hotel rooms can be found for well under $100* a night, and you can't get much cheaper — or more delicious — than Tex-Mex.
2. Portland, Oregon
It may still be a little dreary in March, but drizzle can't defeat the efflorescence that drenches Portland's nearby forests come springtime. (All that rain's gotta be good for something, after all.)
Wildflower hikes are a popular activity. After months of looking at the ever-present gray, locals are eager to take in some color. Hit one of the countless nearby trails and keep an eye out for Mahonia, the blossom pictured above. It’s Oregon's state flower, and you can find its sunny face peeking out beneath the ubiquitous Douglas firs starting in March.
Not much of a hiker? Even if you stay in town, you can find a flowering feast for the senses. Portland is home to the International Rose Test Garden, and although you'll have to wait until June for full bloom, you can wander amongst elegant, technicolor buds in April.
Portland may be trendy, but that doesn't mean it's not affordable. Check out our guide on how to see Portland for $100 a day or less.
3. Southern California
You don't have to head to the California coast to see a sea. A veritable ocean of orange poppies — the official state flower — blooms every year in Antelope Valley, just a short drive north of Los Angeles.
Starting in mid-February and lasting through May, color-seekers can explore eight miles of trails in this state reserve, which includes paved, wheelchair-accessible stretches. The park offers fauna as well as flora. Keep an eye out for local wildlife ranging from gophers to gopher snakes.
If you find yourself a bit further south, check out the Flower Fields at Carlsbad, situated just about halfway between LA and San Diego. Open from March to mid-May, the park is privately owned, but its fifty acres of rolling color are well worth the small price of admission.
4. Central Florida
When Juan Ponce de Leon landed on America's southernmost peninsula in 1513, he named the land La Florida – literally, "land of flowers" – for a reason. If you've never wandered farther inland than the state's famous beaches, you're in for a wonderful surprise.
From north to south, Florida's filled with state parks boasting diverse wildflower viewing opportunities throughout spring, and even in early winter. And since the majority of tourists don't head to the sunshine state until summer, you'll enjoy shoulder season savings no matter where you wander.
5. Great Smoky Mountains
The Smokies' spring wildflower bloom is so legendary, it attracts an annual pilgrimage – literally. This year's Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage will take place in late April, though you'll want to register as soon as the option opens up in March.
Whether you join the group or strike out on your own, the park has multiple camping options, which can help keep accommodation costs low. After all, the weather this time of year is glorious. Why not sleep outside?
Spend a little more, and you can find yourself in a private cabin just outside the park gates. Averaging about $160* a night, many properties include a full kitchen, which can help offset food costs. You'll likely also have swimming pool and clubhouse access.
6. Texas Hill Country
Early April brings the famous bluebonnet bloom deep in the heart of Texas, not to mention Texas paintbrush, Indian blankets, winecup flowers, and more.
And speaking of wine, if you need a non-floral reason to pay the Lone Star State a visit, check out the Hill Country wine trail. You can explore the fifty or so area wineries on your own (with a designated driver, of course!), or check out the events organized for the annual Wine & Wildflower Journey. This year's will run from April 6 - 22, though full details have yet to be published.
7. Yellowstone National Park
Can't quite make April work? Consider a trip to America's first National Park: May and early June make sense of the landscape's name with their preponderance of yellow flowers.
As summer draws near, even more colors come to focus, from purple-blue wildflax to effervescent puffs of red prairie smoke. And, of course, you'll have ample opportunity to meet some new four-legged friends. The park is home to moose, elk, bison, deer, and fox — plus black and grizzly bears who will just be stretching their paws after the long winter's hibernation.
Play it safe: Keep your food tucked away, stick to the trail, and maybe bring some bear spray. You're not the only one celebrating the end of the cold season!
Where are your favorite sites to spot wildflower blooms in springtime? Let us know in the comments below! We're always looking for our next destination.
All content provided in this blog is supplied by Jamie Cattanach and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
*Prices may fluctuate over time. This article reflects price estimates at time of publication.
Image credit: Shutterstock